A hunJethrogry, sick, unneutered, scruffy old dog turned up on a busy street corner in a sea coast New Hampshire town. It was Libby’s Haven for Senior Canines or “no tomorrow” for this guy. When Libby’s Haven consented to take him in, the animal hospital gave Jethro a name and a bath, ascertained he had heartworms, and released him to our care.

He looked like a black dingo – medium-sized “wild dog” type, triangular face and sunken muscles behind his eyes. Muscles all over his body were atrophied from lifelong malnutrition. Jethro had fed himself by foraging for at least part of his life, and he tried to continue the practice in our kitchen. The heartworm treatment was rough on him, but he went through it stoically. He had a high tolerance for pain, and was all-geared to survival. He met all his physical struggles with determined endurance.

Jethro was afraid of human beings. He flinched when we tried to stroke him and cowered even when gently corrected. When a human walked into a room where he was resting, Jethro would get up and leave. He never looked to me or any other human for direction or to check to see whether we were coming along. And yet…without fail, he would always get up and give a happy greeting when we came home or guests came over. At times he shyly invited us to scratch his ears and ruff for a few minutes, then he would often startle and dart away, circle around and return for another brief pat. We knew he had suffered greatly at the hands of humans. Through all of it he retained a natural warmth and desire for affection that flickered clearly and beautifully.

I am happy to say Jethro had a very cushy life for his last year and few months – good walks, tasty food, a dog friend he could trust and look to for direction, and a door he could open and close himself to go outside and come back in as he pleased – his custom-designed door was a great source of empowerment! I take comfort from the notion that by the time he died, Jethro knew he was loved. He enjoyed his last meal of homemade beef stew down to the last molecule. When he lay down for the last time, surrounded by kind people who cared about him, I think he sensed and accepted our love, finally. He was peaceful and dignified, still savoring the satisfying taste of the stew.

“You’re such a good guy,” I often told him, no matter what his behavior.

Jethro crossed the Rainbow Bridge on March 11, 2008.

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